Thursday, 08 February 2024 09:55

Co-op decarbonisation leader's Antarctic trip

Written by  Staff Reporters
Linda Mulvihill, Fonterra’s general manager energy & climate, did a 19-day voyage to Antarctica late last year. Linda Mulvihill, Fonterra’s general manager energy & climate, did a 19-day voyage to Antarctica late last year.

At the beginning of November 2023, Linda Mulvihill, Fonterra’s general manager energy & climate, flew to Ushuaia, Argentina, where she boarded a ship and began a 19-day voyage to Antarctica.

“It takes two days to travel from Ushuaia across the Drake Passage, which is known for being very tumultuous – it was bumpy,” says Mulvihill.

The trip was part of Homeward Bound, a global leadership programme for women with a STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths, and Medicine) background and included a one-year online course and expedition to Antarctica.

The purpose of the Homeward Bound programme is to create a diverse group of leaders in STEMM who are equipped with the skills required to navigate the changing world we live in today.

Mulvihill was the only New Zealand woman selected for her cohort in the global programme, which was originally postponed due to Covid.

During the voyage, Mulvihill learnt about leadership, strategy, and collaboration, with seminars including strategy, generative dialogue, systems thinking, planetary boundaries, polyvagal theory, policy, eco-grief, and many Antarctica topics.

At Fonterra, Mulvihill leads the co-op’s decarbonisations strategy, which includes the conversion of coal boilers to wood pellets that is currently underway at Fonterra’s Hautapu site and the transition to wood biomass at Waitoa.

Arriving in Antarctica, participants were met with a challenging and inspiring backdrop.

The earth’s southern- most continent has experienced some of the greatest warming on earth over the last 50 years and is central to understanding the global impacts of climate change.

“We saw humpback whales two metres off the ship, which was incredible. It was also special to see penguins in their home – it was mating season, so we saw them building nests, and the males bringing pebbles to the females, which is part of their mating ritual.”

Whilst in Antarctica, Mulvihill also took part in the ‘polar plunge’ (jumping into near-freezing water that was approx. -1°C) to raise money for three charities that she is passionate about: Endometriosis New Zealand, Surf Lifesaving New Zealand, and RestoreNative.

Mulvihill hopes to bring back to the cooperative stories of hope about what can be done to improve our planet, as well as a renewed focus and passion to continue to make a difference in her role as a leader in energy and climate.

Now back in New Zealand, Mulvihill is training for the kayak leg of Coast to Coast, which takes place in February.

“I’m a very driven person, and I love pushing myself. I often ask myself why I want to keep doing so many things, there are so many great things to be done and I don’t want to miss out,” she says.

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